World Bank yet to decide on funding Clean Ganga

World Bank yet to decide on funding Clean Ganga

Notwithstanding the government's keenness in transforming the Ganga into a vital waterways, the World Bank said it would commit funding only after assessing the environmental and social impact of the project.

World Bank officials said they received a proposal from the central government in June, 2014, for providing “technical assistance” and “limited investment support for capacity augmentation” of the National Waterway 1 on the Ganga between Haldia (West Bengal) and Barh (Bihar).

“The technical studies as well as related social and environmental impact assessment are yet to be initiated. The detailed cost of the project and the World Bank's share will be known only after detailed studies are completed,” a spokesperson from the World Bank told Deccan Herald.

In his Budget speech, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stated the project would cost Rs 4,200 crore and take six years to complete. “A project on the river Ganga called Jal Marg Vikas (National Waterways-I) will be developed between Allahabad and Haldia to cover a distance of 1,620 km, which will enable commercial navigation of at least 1,500 tonne vessels,” Jaitley had said.

Last month, the World Bank received representations from a group of environmentalists, who raised several ecological concerns on the Ganga waterways project. They said factors like erosion and sedimentation; impact of water transport on the behaviour of aquatic fauna and continuous free flow of water were required to be taken into account.

“We were told by World Bank officials that our representations were forwarded to the Inland Waterways Authority and many of or suggestions would be included in the terms of reference of these committees,” said green activist Bharat Jhunjhunwala who were among a group of environmentalists who met the World Bank officials last month.

The spokesperson said the bank was aware of the government's plan to create 11 river terminals on the Ganga. But a decision on implementation would be taken after pre-project studies.

He said the bank provided technical assistance to inland water transport projects in Brazil, Peru, Congo, Senegal, Mali, China and Vietnam. The government is in the process of issuing the request for proposal within November and final selection of consultants for undertaking the studies will take place by January, 2015.

The initial proposal is based on a study by Danish Hydrological Institute, which prepared reports on two stretches between Allahabad and Varanasi and between Varanasi and Buxar. The plan is to provide a depth of 3 metres in the Ganga to make it fully navigable from Haldia to Allahabad for barges carrying 1, 500-2,000 tonnes.

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